You’ll often hear the word “chord” whenever you hear people talking about music. This may even be confusing if you’re not a musician — we can’t blame you! Music terms can sometimes appear too intimidating and complex. But contrary to popular belief, they are simple to understand. 

If you want to be good at playing the piano, you need to grasp what piano chords are.

What Are Piano Chords?

A chord is made up of three or more notes played simultaneously. With that in mind, a piano chord is technically you playing basic chords on a piano. It’s that simple! Anytime you play the piano and push three or more keys together, you’re basically playing a chord. 

You’ll typically see pianists press three or more keys simultaneously. Sometimes they play the notes using two hands, and there are also times when they use only one hand. Each basic chord has specific attributes you’ll hear when the music is playing.

It’s important to understand that chord progressions will start simple during your learning stages. As you progress, the chords you’d be learning will begin to grow in complexity. Another essential aspect of piano chords is that they’re named after their respective root notes. Piano chords often consist of around two to three notes, and you’ll see that more advanced chords will contain even more detailed notes.

A TRIAD (THREE-NOTE CHORD): THE MOST COMMON PIANO CHORD.

A triad is the most common type of piano chord. Often referred to as a three-note chord, it consists of a root note and two additional notes, usually the notes that form the 3rd and 5th intervals just above the root note. An easy way to grasp how to play the basic triad shape is to use three fingers – your thumb, pinky, and middle finger. 

First, you must place your thumb and two other fingers on the adjacent white keys and push them down. Once you understand how to execute this technique, you’ll find it easier to play different piano chords in the future.

Parts of the Piano

Although pianos differ in sizes, shapes, and types, they all consist of the same essential parts. Whether a concert grand piano or an upright piano, they all share the same fundamental components.

Below are the essential parts of a piano.

Person showing to set up the piano outer rim and lid

Outer Rim and Lid

They are often constructed by thin binding layers of wood together using glue and covering them up with a veneer. The wood used for the outer rims is usually hardwood, either maple or beech. 

While a grand piano’s rim is designed to fit the soundboard, the vertical (upright) pianos have rim frames with the shape of a rectangular prism. First, piano makers sand the lid multiple times until it’s smooth enough to achieve a shiny look. After that, they apply polyurethane layers, the lustrous black finish found on most pianos.

Image of showing the piano Inner Frame

Inner Frame

The soundboard and the hardwood pinblock are supported by the inner frame, which is often made of a hefty cast-iron plate. The hardwood pinblock components, such as brass guide screws, keep strings evenly spaced.

Image of showing the piano Soundboard

Soundboard

The soundboard’s job is to stop the vibrations made by the steel piano strings. Soundboards translate the energy produced by these strings into a rich and resonant sound. Often made of wood, this piano part can initiate the resonant properties of instruments like violin and cello. You’d often see high-quality keyboards made from Sitka spruce, while budget pianos are crafted out of plywood.

Image of showing the piano Keyboard

Keyboard

The keyboard is the most popular part of a piano. It’s the instrument’s playing medium, and there are 88 keys residing on a standard piano keyboard. A housing called keyframe houses these keys. In addition, a keyslip keeps the front part of the piano keys hidden and free from dust.

Image of showing the Piano Action

Piano Action

The piano action is the mechanism that acts like a hammer, striking the strings whenever a pianist presses a key. This part of the piano allows the pianist to perform a wide range of dynamics, highly dependent on the velocity at which the keys are struck. Prominent composers such as Beethoven, Schuman, and Chopin used these dynamics when composing a piece.

Image of showing the piano Strings

Strings

Running the entire length of a piano, these tightly wound steel runs from turning pins down to the hitch pins, right behind the piano. How much these strings vibrate will depend on how hard the pianist strikes the keys. Tuning a piano can be difficult, but piano tuners can do it by adjusting the tension of the strings. 

Image of showing the piano Dampers

Dampers

They are small wooden blocks with felt pads. Dampers are responsible for preventing the strings from vibrating unnecessarily. 

Image of showing the piano Pedals

Pedals

Most pianos usually have three pedals, but some only have two. The left pedal is called the una corda, softening the sound of the notes whenever the strings are struck. The middle pedal is called sostenuto, which sustains notes whenever activated. Lastly, the final pedal, called the damper pedal, can create a resonant sustain sound full of overtones whenever it’s depressing.

Piano chords on a music sheet

Most Important Chords You Should Know

Any aspiring pianist should know the most critical chords are the I, IV, V, and VI. These chords are commonly used in chord progressions, especially in most pop songs. The roman numerals mentioned above represent the numbers on a significant scale, from 1, 5, 6, and 4. 

Below is a representation of each chord in the case of G major.

G Major 

Root: G

Major 3rd: B

Perfect 5th: D

Image of piano G Major

D Major

Root: D

Major 3rd: F#

Perfect 5th: A

Image of piano D Major

E Minor

Root: E

Major 3rd: G

Perfect 5th: B

Image of piano E Minor

C Major

Root: C

Major 3rd: E

Perfect 5th: G

Image of piano C Major
Person playing a piano

Piano Chord Chart: What Is It?

A chord chart (or chart) is a musical notation describing the song’s or tune’s primary harmonic and rhythmic information. Pianists have many piano chord charts, and some are arguably more popular than others. 

A piano chord chart can be a convenient way to look up a chord you don’t know. Think of it as a huge encyclopedia page you can use as a reference. Also, learning how to spell any chord correctly will help you tremendously since most chords may sound too complex. 

You need two pieces of information to find the chord you’re looking for. The first is the root note of the chord you’re looking for, and the second is its quality. 

Here’s an example: Say you’re looking for a C minor chord. The chord’s root is “C,” and its quality is “minor .” So using that information, you can find the root note C and then move over to the right until you spot the C minor. It’s that simple!

How are Piano Chords Notated?

One of beginner piano players’ struggles is learning to recognize different parts of a chord when written down in sheet music. Don’t worry – we’re here to help. Remember that there are multiple ways to play different chords. 

By far, the easiest way to do chord symbols is to use your right hand to play the melody. Then, with your left hand, play one single note (chord root) whenever you see a chord symbol above the staff. 

Here are some examples: 

  • Play a C with your left hand if you see the letter C above the staff. 
  • Play an A-flat when you see an A♭.

You must pay attention to the chord symbols. If you want to increase your chord repertoire, you can either learn how to turn minor chords into major chords or learn how to turn major chords into minor chords.

Woman playing a piano

Piano Chords Generator

If you forgot any chords while practicing, you could use a chord generator to help you out. A piano chord generator will help you find specific chords but will also aid you in your quest to sharpen your music theory skills. Additionally, it will significantly make your keyboard sessions a lot easier. 

Below are some of the best piano chord generators/chord finders you can use today.

Autochords

Autochords

This chord finder creates chords based on the notes in your song using a mathematical model. Simply enter the melody of your piece into the tool, and it will match the melody of your music.

ChordChord

ChordChord

ChordChord is a piano chord generator that shows how certain note combinations sound great when played together. This program lets you choose a key, giving you a list of compatible chords.

Sound Grail

Sound Grail

Sound Grail is a simple yet powerful tool that can help create chord progressions for your compositions. It has a simple interface and many choices to assist you in making the perfect progression for your music.

Final Thoughts

Understanding what chords are and how you can adequately read and play them is crucial in your journey to being a great pianist. Armed with the fundamentals of the piano, its parts, chords, chord charts, and chord notation, you can start learning how to play your piano more effectively.

If you need help learning how to play the piano, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our professional piano experts can help you master playing the piano – from zero to hero.

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